By the end of March, the City of Cape Town metro plans to have added 30 free public WiFi hotspots to its list of 189 existing locations, keeping it hot on the tails of Tshwane and Joburg.
Vennessa Scholtz, the city’s media liaison officer, told htxt.africa that it’s currently preparing a tender to contract with commercial service providers to deliver internet access using municipal infrastructure on a ‘concession’ basis, meaning the city will provide the infrastructure (including access points) while the contracted service providers will deliver the service to the public and will pay for the bandwidth.
Leading the public WiFi project is the Telecommunications Branch, managed by Leon van Wyk and an internal steering committee, which reviews the progress and status of the project on a weekly basis.
Where to find existing and future hotspots
Similar to Joburg and Tshwane, Cape Town makes use of city-owned buildings and other facilities that are frequented by the public as WiFi hotspots. These include libraries, halls and schools. However, what makes Cape Town’s offering slightly different is that the service is designed to be available in the area around the building (i.e. outside of it) and not just inside.
Extending public WiFi to more sites has its limitations however, as Scholtz points out.
“Selected sites must first have a broadband connection before a WiFi zone can be commissioned. Thus, as the city’s network spreads, more buildings will become available at suitable sites for the installation of a zone. In some cases, the need for a WiFi zone has been the driver to extend the Metro Area Network to a particular building.”
How much is it costing the city?
The capital budget specifically set aside to create WiFi zones is R4.435 million for the 2015/16 financial year. and to date, the City has spent approximately R3.2 million on WiFi access point equipment (including installation costs), with approximately R1.25 million left to spend before the financial year is out.
“These access points depend on a connection to the Metro Area Network, this is paid for from the broadband infrastructure budget. It is not possible to specifically allocate a portion of the broadband project cost to the public WiFi project,” Scholtz says.
Data cap significantly lower than other metros
While the City of Tshwane’s public WiFi has a data cap of 500MB and the City of Joburg’s is set at 300MB, all contracted service providers in the City of Cape Town will be required to provide a limited amount of complimentary data bandwidth to users each day, which may be no more than 100 MB, which according to the city, is sufficient for most needs, and limits the potential for misuse.
However, the motivation for setting an upper limit on the amount of data provided daily at no charge will follow from an analysis of the behaviour of users during the pilot phase of the project.
Scholtz says the city will not be offering any additional services such WiFi calling, TV and chat attached to and accessible through the WiFi.
Does this tie in with the provincial government’s plans to connect every school by the end of this year?
“The Western Cape Government’s plans for connecting schools and providing internet access to schools are not directly linked to this project. We do, however, continually engage with them to seek synergies between these two initiatives,” explained Scholtz.
From an infrastructure perspective, the city is not involved in the Western Cape Government project other than to lease some of its infrastructure to Neotel, which is the provincial government’s contracted service provider, and its subcontractors. This is then used by Neotel to deliver broadband services to schools and other buildings.
In the meantime Joburg is working on its plans to have 1 000 active WiFi hotspots by the end of this year, while Tshwane is yet to reveal what its game plan for the year is.[Image – CC Wikimedia Commons]